Augsburg Fortress
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First Lutheran Church-Cedar Rapids, IA loves Spark!

September 22nd, 2015 by Beth A. Lewis


This past weekend, my husband, Rev. Rick Rouse, was working with the good people at First Lutheran Church in Cedar Rapids, IA.  He told me that he had enjoyed a delightful conversation with their Director of Children and Family Ministries, Marissa Letscher about our Spark Sunday School curriculum.  I asked if he could obtain specifics for me because I love to hear how congregations all across North America use our resources, especially those created to pass along our faith to children!


So, you might imagine how thrilled I was to receive a personal note from Marissa on Monday afternoon with her story of Spark at First Lutheran Church!  She has also given me permission to share it with you:

“about Spark. I wanted to let you know how truly fabulous I believe this curriculum is. I’ve been around a few churches in my lifetime, and a great many curricula. I feel Spark is really one of the best options available. In fact, purchasing Spark (Lectionary), was the last thing I did at my previous church, and the first thing I did when I arrived at First Lutheran in Fall of 2009. More and more, I find that as culture changes, parents are increasingly leaning toward tradition and things that are familiar. The Lectionary is one of those things – and a curriculum that follows the Lectionary, allowing adults and children to hear the same message at an age appropriate level, becomes more and more relevant and, dare I say, necessary. Spark not only allows for this kind of parallel learning, but encourages it. At a time when other leaders in the church are shouting “Kill Sunday school,” I find myself recommending Spark to everyone I know: Baptist pastors, children’s ministry directors in the UMC, PCUSA, etc. And they all have caught the vision of Spark and now use it in their own churches. What’s so great about Spark? It’s flexible. Whether you have an hour and a half, or just 45 minutes, Spark lessons can be easily adapted to fit almost any schedule. Additionally, lessons can easily be broken down over several weeks and augmented in meaningful ways with the Wild Card and Art Extras. What else is great? At-home connections are built-in, and wait, there’s more! Not only are there resources that come with the curriculum, but things like Spark Family Magazine, Spark Bibles and more make it super simple to get your families connecting Sunday discoveries to conversations at home. Finally, it meets the needs of each kind of learner. Spark lesson plans are chock full of all different kinds of activity and movement – especially in the early ages/grades. This is so important as we think about making God’s story accessible to everyone.

As you can tell, we LOVE Spark. While we use the Lectionary, we study only one story every ‘month’ in a four-week block that also includes a whole day of service and a whole day of reflection. So the first two weeks we spend our time in the lesson plan, and in an activity we wrote and added, called “Spirit Center” (it’s attached so you can see it). The third week all our children are engaged in a service project to the community, and asked to reflect on how that act of service speaks to the part of God’s story they’ve just read and learned about. The fourth week we spend our entire time together in spiritual practices: walking the labyrinth, writing in their spiritual journal (we write prompts that are specific to each month’s scripture and theme/learning objective), praying and coloring a Mandala, or using Praying in Color. We ask the children to consider the story they’ve heard from Scripture, to pray about what they’ve read and learned, and to listen for God to speak to them. What would God have them learn or hear? How is God shaping their heart through these stories and through their service? Spark so easily lends itself to such deep, meaningful learning in this way. I simply love it and I cannot recommend it more highly. Thank you, thank you to you and your team for such excellent material!”

WOW! I can’t begin to thank you enough, Marissa, for making my day…not to mention the days of my sparkhouse colleagues who work hard on creating innovative and effective faith formation resources! Comments like this are such affirmation of our work!

Here are the instructions and the photo Marissa mentioned above related to their “Spirit Center.”

Spirit Center Instructions_First LC_Cedar Rapids

Spirit Center First LC_Cedar Rapids IA

It is so great to see the creative ways congregations adapt the resources we create for their contexts!

One of the things I particularly noted in Marissa’s email was her intentionality about helping families with young children connect their faith life in their daily lives at home through the use of resources such as our Spark Family magazine and Spark Bibles.  When I looked on the First Lutheran Church website, I noted that they recommend these Bibles and several other resources we publish including Water Come Down and Welcome, Child of God in their “Stuff we Like” section!  I’m guessing that it won’t be long before a number of our brand new (just published August 4th!) Sparkhouse Family books, Bibles and DVD’s will show up on this list, too!

As I read (and re-read!) Marissa’s words, I reflected on the deep thought, research and careful crafting that goes into the creation of the faith formation resources my sparkhouse colleagues are creating.  And, just as I was thinking about that, a new Sparkhouse Family blog post showed up in my inbox, Behind the Scenes: Making the Spark Story Bible Work Well for Kids! If you care about selecting high quality faith formation resources for the kids in your family or congregation, I think you’ll enjoy reading about the attention to detail that goes into our work! For example, do you know why our favorite caterpillar, Squiggles shows up in every single Bible story?


Read the blog to find out!

What is your congregation’s story about using one of our sparkhouse faith formation resources?  We’d love to hear from you!




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Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress
  • springer

    What does the ‘First’ in First Lutheran Church mean?

  • BethLewis

    Here is the link to their history on their website, springer. The congregation was founded as “First English Lutheran Church” so I’m guessing that it was the first in Cedar Rapids to offer worship services & faith formation in English rather than German or other languages.

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